Big Fish, Small World: A Taste of Home

Bonjour mes amis!

Let us pick up where we left off with the food. I am from one of the greatest culinary cities in America, Chicago, and being a foodie is something I take pride in. Strasbourg has not disappointed. During the first few days in the city, I tried traditional dishes like the tarte flambée, which I would compare to a pizza with crème fraîche as the sauce and ham as the topping. And then there is the Baeckeoffe, a combination of lamb, pork, and beef roast with vegetables topped with potatoes and served in a massive dish so everyone can share; it is better than your grandma’s best crock pot dish.

I have had the pleasure of visiting a few Michelin-starred restaurants while I have been here in Alsace. The highlight has been Utopie, a 16-person restaurant boasting a 2021 Michelin star in the heart of Strasbourg. You can see a picture of one of their dishes accompanying this post. Food is part of my identity, and in Strasbourg, it has been the conduit for me to get out and be comfortable when I am trying to experience new things. 

Speaking of experiencing new things, I want to take a moment to talk about culture shock. I guess being older and on my own for quite some time already has made the transition abroad a bit more manageable. However, some of my younger American peers have been going through the struggles that come with being away from home. The thing I miss most is my four dogs. One of the first things I learned to say in French was “caresser son chien ?” which means “Can I pet your dog?” so I can get over that sense of missing my pups when it strikes.

Homesickness can creep up on you, and the more you indulge that feeling, the more you will notice that is different from what you are used to back home. Things like the stores being smaller and having less variety, everything being closed on Sunday, restaurants not opening for dinner until 7 pm, and the amount of walking. However, if you allow yourself to enjoy the differences, you will also start seeing things that make you feel more at home. If you are an American, you will notice things like there are hamburger shops everywhere in Strasbourg, cyclists still have no respect for the rules of the road, and the French people, like Americans, are proud but kind. And when all of it becomes too overwhelming, the Château de Pourtalès (the subject of my poem this week) is ready to take you in and bring solace. Once you overcome the obstacles and start seeing the opportunities, the real fun and travel begin. But I have gone on too long. More about the trips next time; they do not call Strasbourg the “crossroads” of Europe for nothing!